SMITH COUNTY (KYTX) - Since November of last year, eight people facing felony convictions were released from the Smith County Jail on personal recognizance bonds because the sheriff's office didn't present their completed cases to the district attorney by the deadline.
By law, the sheriff's office has 90 days to submit cases for review by a grand jury.
The crimes these eight suspects are charged with range from drug offenses to aggravated assault charges. But because the Smith County Sheriff's Office failed to submit the cases to the district attorney's office within 90 days, they were released on PR bonds -- meaning that as long as they agree to show up for their court dates, they don't have to come up with any bond money.
"It does concern me if a person's out on a PR bond and is charged with prior violent offenses," Smith County District Attorney Matt Bingham said.
Sheriff Larry Smith says part of the problem with getting the cases submitted in time is that his staff is stretched thin.
"When you've got 362 employees that work 24 hours a day, seven days a week, you're going to have hiccups here and there," he said. "And I think the best thing to do is once you have those hiccups is to do something to prevent them from happening again, and that's what we're doing."
Those accused of the worst crimes include Kendrick Nelson-Phillips, Cesar Perez-Montiel, Lindsey David Maynard and Jerry Allen -- all of whom are charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
Allen is accused of shooting three people at a party earlier this year.
"If a person has shot three people and he's back on the streets, I think common sense tells you that's an individual that is a dangerous individual," Bingham said.
The other suspects released were Jason Eaton, Macy Claiborne, Terrance Washington and Eduardo Garcia. Eaton and Claiborne were arrested on drug charges, while Washington and Garcia are accused of assaulting a public servant and burglary, respectively.
Bingham says this is the first time in his 17 years as a prosecutor in Smith County that he's seen so many cases failing to make it to the grand jury in time.
"They have a difficult job and a lot of cases, but there are a more than usual number of cases that are getting out because it's not to us in those 90 days," he said.
But while Smith says he accepts responsibility for the missed deadlines, he thinks Bingham needs to work with his office to make things run more smoothly.
"We have many times taken these cases to the district attorney's office well within the 90 days, only to get from them, 'No, I'm not going to accept the case now because you need to do this, this and this," he said.
One thing Smith says his office has begun doing within the last month is to require investigators to have every misdemeanor case to the D.A. in 30 days, and felony cases within 45 days -- instead of the 90-day deadline the law places on them.
He's hoping that will help push some of these cases along so something like this doesn't happen again.
Both Smith and Bingham said the release doesn't mean these cases are over. They may still be indicted in the future.
In addition those eight suspects, records show that 13 more people could have been released but were held on additional charges or federal detainers.